| Geography of Coffee
Matagalpa Study Tour -- 2009
Days 1-2: León to Estelí
James Hayes-Bohanan , Ph.D.
Bridgewater State College Geography
UPDATED January 15, 2009
Cafezinho in Florianópolis
is part of a series
describing my January
5-15, 2009 study tour in León, Estelí, Matagalpa, and
Granada. See my Coffee-Nicaragua
page for stories, insights, and photographs from the 2006 and 2007 study tours.
|This page includes only a few photos. All of these and many more are available at higher resolution on Flickr!|
For the first time, this study tour included a roasting demonstration. The vast majority of coffee produced and consumed in Nicaragua is roasted elsewhere. Ben Linder Cafe contributes to local economic sustainability by shifting local conumption to local production, while also provided professional development for its roasting staff.
|People often ask if fair-trade coffee tastes "as good" as reguarl coffee. I usually answer that if the land and the coffee are treated well, the coffee is likely to be better. Coffee production has about 50 steps. At the Ben Linder Cafe, we had the privilege of enjoying coffee that was planted, cultivated, harvested, and processed with care and then roasted, ground and brewed right before our eyes, It was then poured into heated glass cups, and finished with a bit of latte art. The result is easy to guess: Mmmmmmm. One of the cups had fair-trade chocolate melted at the bottom. Double-Mmmmmmm.|
| From the Ben Linder Cafe, we
went to PLUSAA, a small enterprise that recieves support from the Polus
Center for Social and Economic Development. This small enterprise
manufactures 18 custom-built wheelchairs every 18 days, along with
necessary support and guidance. About half of the employees are
themselves wheelchair users.
All clients pay for their wheelchairs (or walkers or other custom devices), but they pay an amount appropriate to their circumstances. The payment might be quite low, but it is important that users are fully invested in the equipment they use. The total cost is kept low by careful planning and design and the use of local materials.
|In addition to providing people
-- including victims of landmines -- with much-needed wheelchairs and
the training and social support to use them, PLUSAA is a place
where people who have suffered severe injuries can grow, contribute,
and develop skills.
At the conclusion of our facility tour, we had what has become an increasingly common experience for me in developing countries -- spontaneous innovation in the use of teaching technologies. In this case, PLUSAA had an instructional slide show, but its computer room was not big enough to show it to our group. So our van bumper became a temporary classroom, with one of our bilingual students translating the text.
|The third project we visited in
León was Walking Unidos. Like PLUSAA it serves a variety of
with injuries or with congenital conditions, in this case those
resulting in full or partial limb loss. Many of the technicians at
Walking Unidos are themselves users of prosthetics. We learned that the
transition to prosthetics can be quite difficult emotionally, so the
involvement of prosthetic users is an important part of the program's
success. As with PLUSAA, clients pay for an apporpiate part of the cost
of their prosthetics.
Visiting the three Polus Center projects in León was an emotional experience for me. I was humbled by the grace and dignity of all the people we met and at the same time was overwhelmed by the thought of the kinds of losses they had faced -- and were overcoming.
Based on my previous experiences with Polus Center in Massachusetts, I was not surprised to find the Center's office in Leon to be well organized and prepared to receive potential clients with professionalism and dignity.
A Walking Unidos prosthetic technician explained the process of measuring and planning a prosthetic devise, and the relationship between medical professionals who prescribe prosthetics and the Walking Unidos staff who design them and train clients in their use.
I took the photograph below with the intention of focusing on the prosthetic mold itself. I was quite taken aback when I looked at the photo later.